Question: Do you recommend that all younger siblings of every child with autism be tested for the possibility of autism?
Answer: It's a very important question and I think it's a question that's on every parent's mind who has child with autism, you know, knowing that autism can run in families and that there is a genetic component, you know, "Is my younger infant at risk?" I think the dilemma that parents face and that clinicians face is that there isn't sort of a definitive test for autism.
I think that the most appropriate response to that parent's question and that parent's concern is that the risk is elevated to the point where it is important to be more vigilant to early developmental issues, particularly around the development of communications skills, social interactions, in the way children interact with other people, and the development of early play skills.
And, although it may not be as simple as sort of applying a particular test at a single point in time, I think monitoring that child through careful observation in those areas of development, the administration of specific autism screening tools, which have been developed and evaluated for children as young as 18 months, and maintaining sort of an open line of communication with that child's health care provider. So, although I wish there was a specific test for autism that would kind of clarify the issue at a single point in time, I think the reality at this point is that it's a much more continuous process.
But it's absolutely correct that that younger infant is at increased risk relative to other children in the general community. And I think it's really important for health care providers and other service providers to be aware of that and to give that child and family extra attention.